Las Vegas Clarion Hotel & Casino Taken Down By (Failed) Implosion

It has been eight years since the last hotel in Las Vegas was destroying using the technique of building implosion. Implosion is a highly controlled demolition of a building using explosives. This time it took 4,400 pounds of explosives and many months of careful planning to take down the twelve-story Clarion Hotel & Casino located off the strip near the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Taking Down the Old to Make Way for the New
Property is so valuable in Las Vegas, that in order to build a new hotel, sometimes it requires tearing down an old one. The Clarion was the thirteenth Las Vegas hotel demolished in this fashion, but notice something remains…

It was all done with Las Vegas style. The new owner of the property, Lorenzo Doumani, had a beautiful showgirl on each side, and the countdown to the explosion included the playing of Frank Sinatra’s hit songs. Then at 3 a.m., on Feb. 10, 2015, Mr. Doumani pushed the button.

The building came down in a matter of seconds, to the delight of everyone, including tourists from all over the world who watched the event. One woman, Amanda Dickerson came all the way from Wisconsin just to see the building fall down, because seeing an implosion was on her “bucket list” of things she wanted to do before she died.

Checkered History of the Property
The $3 million 200-room hotel first opened in 1970. At that time, it was the Royal Inn. It sold for $7.4 million in 1980 and a $3.2 million renovation created a hotel with a New York theme called the Royal American Hotel. In 1982, it changed hands again for $15.4 million to become the Paddlewheel Hotel & Casino, which was a family-friendly hotel/casino containing a video game arcade and amusement rides for kids.

One of the hotel’s most interesting incarnations came later, in 1991, when Debbie Reynolds and her husband Richard Hamlett bought it at auction for the bargain price of $2.2 million, which was less than the original construction cost twenty-years earlier. It was renamed the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel & Casino. The Reynolds-style sparkling $15 million renovation created a charming hotel, including a museum of Hollywood memorabilia that Ms. Reynolds had collected. She even performed frequently at the hotel’s 300-seat theater.

The problem was the gaming area of the casino was too small. It did not create enough cash flow to cover even day to day casino operations. The gaming operator was Jackpot Enterprises who pulled out of the deal because the casino was not profitable. Hotel occupancy rates for the rooms did not make up the difference either, so the hotel continued to lose money. When Jackpot Enterprises left, the hotel was not able to get a new gambling license or another casino operator because it did not qualify with the Nevada State Gaming Commission due to lack of revenues.

Debbie Reynolds and the hotel declared bankruptcy in 1997. The World Wrestling Foundation bought the hotel out of the bankruptcy proceedings. They resold the property to Mark IV Realty Group, who renamed it the Greek Isles Casino. They could not make a success with the property either, so they sold it to Canpartners Reality who made it into the Clarion Hotel & Casino. It was the only Clarion hotel in the chain to include a casino.

Future Plans
The new owner plans to build a gigantic hotel on the property, a sixty-story building that will only be a hotel with no condominiums or casino. He attributes the multiple past failures were not due to the hotel’s location, but instead because the rooms were too small. In addition, so was the scale of the hotel. That is why he is going super big with his hotel this time. He wants to cater to the visitors of the Convention Center with hotel rooms designed to include full office workspaces.

If he succeeds in building a sixty-story hotel on the property, it would be the tallest occupied building in Las Vegas according to current standards. It is not likely the new hotel will open anytime before 2018.

For those of you who missed the February 10th event, the newest report is a second implosion may be necessary to complete the demolition. Even though workers used over four thousand pounds of explosives, the central elevator shaft withstood two-tons of explosive pressure and remains partially standing in the middle of the pile of rubble. The elevator shaft broke into pieces, fell about four floors, but remains up in the air.

The company responsible for planning the demolition, Burke Construction, is also considering using a wrecking ball to complete the operation. Anthony O. Schlecht, who is the safety coordinator for Burke Construction said planning for the demolition took months and included covering swimming pools of hotels nearby, including the Marriott, so no debris would fall into the pools. None of the nearby properties suffered any damage from the explosion. That’s how it is done Vegas style.

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